Expressionist sculpture, like expressionist painting, is charged with strong emotional tensions which it communicates by distortions of natural form and proportion. Expressionism, strangely enough, has attracted many fewer sculptors than painters in recent American art, but among them are several of our most powerful artists outside the abstract trend and a group of younger men, who are contributing notably to the movement.
Paradoxically, two of our leading expressionist sculptors, Jacques Lipchitz and Bernard Reder, are rooted in the classical tradition of French art. In Paris, where both reached artistic maturity, Reder was carving monumental stone figures somewhat akin to those of Maillol while Lipchitz was translating cubism into equally classical three-dimensional forms. In America both have moved in more romantic directions. Lipchitz has built an art of extreme emotional intensity, using massive rhythms, anguished gestures, and primitive dislocations of anatomy. The tortured convolutions of the design in Sacrifice, II and the nearly audible cry of the bird as the knife pierces its breast are pure expressionism--a catharsis of violence. Reder's development has been different. Nourished by an apparently inexhaustible reservoir of fantasy inherited from his Hasidic Jewish background, his imagination has created a private mythology peopled by Amazons and bulls, flowering cats and beautiful women with strange musical instruments. His style is baroque, creating a constant play of light and shadow, erupting with fanciful distortions. Yet in spite of the distance that both artists have traveled from their beginnings, it may be that their extraordinary plastic freedom has been made possible only by the formal discipline of those early years. Certainly it in be felt beneath their most complex inventions--a sense of rhythm, of balance, an ingrained memory of the traditional sculptural concept of the containment of forms within the block. They have never entirely abandoned classicism, although they have transformed its tranquillity to emotional fervor.